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The Positive Approach - Lesson 20


By Peter Shepherd

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How do you become conscious of your Self - that is, your true or spiritual self, rather than just your inner speech and the voices in your head replayed from the past? Direct conscious effort is necessary. You become more conscious just by asking yourself, "What am I conscious of right now?" Also, "What feelings am I creating right now?" These expose that our actions, and the emotions that drive them, actually relate to self-talk, largely compulsive thinking, often just below the level of consciousness. The talk and belief system of the particular identity we are adopting.

Just asking these questions will make you temporarily conscious, but probably you will not be able to keep it going, your mind will become absorbed in something else and you will forget yourself. You must realize during your self-observation that you are present, that you are here, in the present moment. As you persist in self-remembering, your moments of consciousness as Self will become increasingly longer and you will forget your Self increasingly less.

What do you observe? Begin by watching your actions, reactions, responses and behavior. Be like 'another person' looking at your human mind in operation. At first this will be very difficult to do but as you practice, it will become progressively easier and eventually stable.

Continue by observing your posture, listening to your speech, observing how much you talk, listening to the tone of your voice, i.e. the 'way' you say something. Observe how you automatically assume certain attitudes with some people, and different attitudes with others, i.e. how you (normally) unconsciously switch identities and play different roles with different people. Watch all of your emotions, observe your mind wandering aimlessly in pure fantasy. Observe how certain words by certain people trigger reactions in you that you (normally) cannot control. Watch your defense mechanisms, your justifications, your rationalizations, your pet superstitions, your favorite criticisms, and so forth. You are now starting to become conscious of your unconsciousness, and thereby bringing it into consciousness.

Normally people erroneously assume that they are constantly one and the same person. However, as you begin to observe yourself, you find this is not true. You assume many different 'I's and each 'I' manifests itself as a role that you play corresponding to one set of conditions, i.e. you assume different roles with different people and in different circumstances. One role with your parents, another with your children, a loved one, at the corner store, at the theater, in sports, under stress, when threatened, when praised, when jilted, and so on. You seldom, if ever, notice these differences or how you pass from one role to another. The change of roles or 'personality masks' is always controlled by circumstances, rather than you self-determinedly choosing an appropriate way of being. It is the unconsciousness or compulsion that we are trying to expose. Freely adopting appropriate ways of being, for example, to match the reality of the people you are with or the game you are playing, is a necessary social skill and all part of the fun and variety of life.

The illusion of 'oneness' or belief that you are always the same is created by always having the sensation of one physical body, the same name, the same physical habits and so forth; and also by the illusion that each identity is right. After all, you are always 'right', aren't you? And the same rightness - your safe solution to the circumstances you are in - gives the illusion of the same identity.

By self-observation, you will catch yourself lying. Lying occurs when you pretend to know something when in actuality you do not. People pretend to possess all kinds of knowledge: about themselves, about God, about life and death, about the universe, about evolution, about politics, about sex, about everything. In fact, people do not even know who or what they are. Even when he or she has no choice and is controlled in life like 'a reed in the wind', a person will lie to himself that he is self-willed, knows himself and is in control of his destiny. You imagine these things to please yourself, and shortly after you begin to believe them.

As you self-observe, you find that you identify with everything - you emotionalize 24 hours a day. Some people take pride in their irritability, anger or worry. It is extremely difficult to perceive that you actually enjoy negative emotions. Books, movies, TV and popular songs glorify negative emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, boredom, disgust, irritation, hatred, jealousy, suspicion, self-pity, sympathy, depression, etc. Many people are controlled by the expression of negative emotions. But negative emotions are purely mechanical - done without awareness or consciousness - and serve no useful purpose whatsoever. For example, it is hard to be angry or fearful when you are conscious, as to be conscious you naturally assume your true state of being, which is loving, without judgmental qualification.

Negative emotions and all habits require 'identification' or they cease to exist. Thus when you cease to identify, by self-remembering, your habits will drop away - they have been exposed. You have differentiated yourself from them. Habits cannot be stopped by willpower, they can only be erased by self-knowledge.

Religious doctrines like the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule are therefore quite impossible for the normal human being to follow. Habits of mechanicalness will always cause people to violate codes of law and moral rules. Only self-knowledge can direct you to living the 'right life' and you will not need written rules, codes or commandments, you will function intuitively and spontaneously, naturally from Love. This is true freedom without license.

A major self-imposed problem is to identify with objects (including people) and in turn become 'possessed' by them. Since things wear out, decay and die, a person becomes bereaved whenever he loses the objects of his affection. This goes further, he begins to regard himself as a 'thing' that must eventually wear out, decay and die.

Identification with people occurs when you constantly worry what people will think about you, if you are liked or disliked, what someone else will do or say in a given situation, and so on. This can quickly become an obsession of worry, doubt, suspicion, blame, resentment and guilt feelings. Emotion of this sort is the main factor that keeps the spiritual being attached and unaware in a fixed identification with the human body-mind.

A primary cause of identification occurs when a harmful action is deliberately or accidentally committed, or a good deed omitted, and the resulting sympathy causes an identification with the victim. The compulsion to make self right, then causes a reversal of this, sometimes almost immediately, and the victim is made wrong, and the act is considered deserved. But the sympathy identification, though suppressed, continues to have effect subconsciously. One is then caught in an internal conflict of identification.

The only reason we humans aren't at peace within ourselves is because we've gotten caught up in the erroneous belief that things must be "right or wrong." This creates judgment, which creates guilt. The usual human response to guilt is projection - putting it onto the other - in an attempt to get rid of the guilt. This, of course, doesn't work, but it does start wars and keeps people from feeling peaceful. If we stop seeing things through the eyes of the right vs. wrong comparison, we stop judging and stop trying to justify our negative feelings and actions. We stop wars and feel peace.

You should know that: no-one can effect you but your own thinking; it is your own mind that keeps you in bondage; no-one can ever make you angry but your own thoughts; all anguish is self-inflicted and self-imposed; no-one can make you worry but yourself.

It is impossible to do anything to you - the actual You - at any time; it is always your beliefs and decisions that affect you. Thus only you suffer from holding grudges, hatreds, resentments or revengefulness. No-one has ever affected you but your own thoughts. No-one has caused you to be frightened, angry, hurt or happy but your own mind, because if you didn't identify in your own mind with what was said or done to you, you would not have been affected in the least. This is one of the most difficult facets of existence to perceive, but once perceived, its worth becomes priceless. Understanding this is the way to ultimate freedom.


Go back over today's events and relive as many experiences as you can remember. Take each memory separately and see that it was your own thinking that caused you to feel hurt, happy, angry and so forth. Keep re-feeling the experience until you free everyone in the scene of responsibility for affecting you. Then reverse the process, and be sure that you yourself do not assume responsibility for another's feelings because in like manner, it was their identification in their mind with what you said or did that affected them and not you.

The Gnosis or knowledge you release (for you always knew it) will not immediately make you more comfortable or secure. In fact, it is painful at times, because you will be aware of your false identities, your facades, your defense mechanisms, your silliness, your viciousness, and your primitive self, perhaps for the first time. But persist for you are recovering a genuine identity that no-one can take away from you. Your security and comfort will gradually be found in your change from a pseudo-self to a permanent harmonious Self that is objective and unlimited in scope. This is the way to higher consciousness and higher powers of mind.

The following exercises will help you to become more self-aware and to live more consciously...

Exercise 1
This first exercise is a pleasurable and powerful life changing tool. The effects of daily stress associated with materialistic obsession (and its by-products: anxiety, isolation, frustration, fear, anger and depression) can be dissolved by this technique. It is at the same time simple and very profound. It is the smile-at-the world exercise. It increases greatly the vibratory rate of your non-physical Higher Self. Its premise is "smile at the world and the world will smile back at you."

As you go about your daily activities, from the moment you get up in the morning up to the the time that you go back to sleep, constantly imagine that you are smiling inwardly at your outer reality as you go about your daily activities. Imagine that you are smiling from the deeper recesses of your mind, originating from within your heart area, and that you are projecting that happiness and smile outward through your eyes and expression. No matter what the circumstances are.

You will find that your eyes will be constantly smiling and so will your mouth, which will often curl up to a slight smile. Keep focusing constantly on that act until it becomes automatic and second nature to you.

At the same time imagine that your heart constantly expresses a great inward smile filled with pure joy of being alive, no matter what. Notice how people will seek your presence and 'Inner Love.' After 2 weeks or so, you will notice an incredible amount of changes, not only in the way you interact with the 'outside' world, but also in how the 'world' acts and projects reality toward you. Your fears will begin to abate and an inner feeling of peace and love will emerge. Fear will stop having a grip upon you. Done for regular periods of 3 weeks at a time this exercise alone can change anyone's life dramatically at all levels.

Exercise 2
The second exercise is titled the "going in and out of movies" exercise. All you need to do is to choose a good suspenseful motion picture and go watch it, preferably on a big screen.

First, allow yourself to get immersed in the captivating story. As you forget about your identity and start becoming 'within' the plot of the scene, suddenly withdraw your awareness from the big screen (you may for the first time want to look a bit around you in the dark in order to remember 'who you are') and become the observer of reality again. Slowly reconnect to the plot, but this time, allow yourself to remain with the awareness of being yourself watching, as a spectator (observer), the reality projected in the movie. Keep this dual awareness for a moment and then let go and plunge within the movie action, forgetting your real inner self again. And then repeat the exercise over and over.

Keep on doing this mental withdrawal and then plunging in again, until you get to know intimately the feeling of withdrawing from 'reality' (aware of inner self) and diving back in it (aware of outer reality). Easy isn't it? Trust me, this simple exercise is very powerful.

As you get the knack of it try the same system as you go about you daily life. Use the same "mental trick" when engaged in your daily activities, especially the very ones that captivate you and are often associated with fear and stress. Soon, you will become aware at all times of being the 'observer' (inner self) observing the observed (reality and outer self) and become quite detached about it, enjoying your 'movie' in a much more relaxed and calm atmosphere.

Exercise 3
Set aside 5 minutes at first (keep increasing by 2-3 minutes every other day until you reach 20 minutes) and close your eyes. Turn your attention inward and, from being a 'thinking' human being, start viewing your thoughts as an independent observer in a detached remote manner, almost as if your thoughts were to be 'things' or a spectacle to watch. Watch the train of your thoughts and images, the succession of often unrelated thoughts that appear to you. Don't analyze anything.

For the next part of the exercise learn, as in the 'movies' exercise above, to switch from the perception of being 'in' your thoughts to withdrawing from them and becoming the detached totally passive observer of them. Get the feeling for the mental shift that occurs when doing so. Go within the thoughts and then withdraw to a more detached level. After a while of repeating this exercise you will notice that your thoughts become more isolated and that your inner mind starts taking a break.

Now, here is the third part of the exercise. As you watch your train of thought (visions or just thoughts), pick up one particular thought that you find interesting and "plunge into it" with full concentration. Remain focused on that thought to the exclusion of others for as long as possible. If other thoughts interfere, do not push them away, but watch them pass by as if they were foreign 'things' in your consciousness. At first you might only be able to do this for maybe 1 minute or less. Slowly increase it up to 7 minutes.

The last part of the exercise consists of deciding to blank your thoughts out. This is done by deciding to concentrate on perceptually dark nothingness. If a thought comes in, imagine throwing white light on it. Imagine that the light dissolves that thought and that the screen then goes back to nothingness. Try to maintain that state up to 5 minutes. Start with 1-2 minutes.

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Next Lesson: 21. Why People Behave As They Do
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